September 5, 2005
Wherever you are located as you receive this, I am hoping that
it finds you safe and well. Like many in the United States--and
even those outside this country--I have spent this past week watching
helplessly from afar, the devastation of Katrina. There are others
watching, however, who are seeing these images through different
"HOUSTON (AP) -
The stress and tension of being forced out of her home in New
Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and having to watch the storm's destructive
aftermath on television was overwhelming at times Tuesday for
Toshika Barnes. 'We saw my sister's neighborhood, just the rooftops.
Nothing's there. She knows she doesn't have a house. It is just
depressing and upsetting right now,' said Barnes, a nurse, as
she started to cry. ... Like her, other evacuees began feeling
intense frustration, anger and sadness over their plight Tuesday.
... Since Monday [August 29, 2005], Katrina has wreaked havoc
across the Gulf Coast, flooding most of New Orleans and devastating
cities in Mississippi and Alabama. 'These people are just helplessly
watching (the destruction) on a television monitor,' said Dr.
Stuart Yudofsky, chairman of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry
at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Their feelings of frustration
would be 'channeled into rebuilding. But at this point there is
nothing they can do. They can't go back yet.'"
Frustration is only one
of the many raw emotions being felt by those watching their homes
and communities from distant safety.
"Many of those affected
by Hurricane Katrina may be feeling shock as well because they
thought the hurricane had missed them, but the devastating flooding
added an element of surprise. Denial involves your not acknowledging
that something very stressful has happened, or not experiencing
fully the intensity of the event. You may temporarily feel numb
or disconnected from life."
Even those who are not
directly affected are feeling some of the general stress that
has spread throughout the country.
"The effects of
a hurricane like Katrina will be long-lasting and the resulting
trauma can reverberate even with those not directly affected by
the disaster. It is common for people who have experienced traumatic
situations to have very strong emotional reactions. ... Shock
and denial are typical responses to large-scale natural disasters,
especially shortly after the event. Those who were in close proximity
to danger or who lost family members or even pets may be particularly
affected. Both shock and denial are normal protective reactions."
While some are stressed
by the helplessness of being so far away and unable to personally
help where there is so much need, others are closer to the disaster
than they ever thought they would be.
"The human violence
that emerged after Hurricane Katrina as survivors desperately
sought food and water will worsen the psychological debris left
by the natural disaster itself, U.S. health experts warned on
Thursday [September 1, 2005]. The struggle to stay alive is likely
to trigger a rash of stress-related issues that can lead to depression
and anxiety, especially among vulnerable children, experts said.
... That stress can add to the problems of coping with the aftermath
of the storm itself, which wiped out much of the U.S. Gulf Coast,
flooding Louisiana and Mississippi and displacing tens of thousands
of people. Scarce food and water has led to looting and arson
fires. On Wednesday, a National Guard soldier was shot and wounded
in New Orleans. Being tired, hungry and hot also makes the aftermath
hard to deal with, experts said." http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_26672.html
We may never know exactly
how many families lost homes, how many people lost beloved pets,
or how many children (as well as teens and adults) lost precious
comfort objects that would benefit them all the more now that
they are in such need of comfort.
"The intense anxiety
and fear that often follow a disaster can be especially troubling
for surviving children, especially if children were victims of
the disaster or were separated from their families. Some may regress
and demonstrate younger behaviors such as thumb sucking or bed
wetting. Children may be more prone to nightmares and fear of
sleeping alone. Performance in school may suffer. Other changes
in behavior patterns may include throwing tantrums more frequently,
or withdrawing and becoming more solitary."
Even more devastating,
we may never know how many people lost family members, or how
many entire families lost their lives. So, here we are. FEMA,
the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and many more local
communities, schools, churches, and individuals are trying to
reach out to those in need.
"Children and Their
Response to Disaster In a disaster, they'll look to you and other
adults for help. How you react to an emergency gives them clues
on how to act. If you react with alarm, a child may become more
scared. They see our fear as proof that the danger is real. If
you seem overcome with a sense of loss, a child may feel their
losses more strongly. Children's fears also may stem from their
imagination, and you should take these feelings seriously. A child
who feels afraid is afraid. Your words and actions can provide
reassurance. ... [A]s an adult, you need to keep control of the
situation. When you're sure that danger has passed, concentrate
on your child's emotional needs by asking the child what's uppermost
in his or her mind. Having children participate in the family's
recovery activities will help them feel that their life will return
to 'normal.' ... Be aware that after a disaster, children are
most afraid that--*the event will happen again. *someone will
be injured or killed. *they will be separated from the family.
*they will be left alone."
Not that long ago, it
seems as though we were all watching images of the tsunami half
a world away. This time, the disaster came to us... and many more
of of our friends and neighbors are living it in some real way,
not just watching it in awe.
(For further information,
including (but not limited to) the previous topics, copy and paste
the above link.)
Questions of the Week:
Now what? Where can a person begin to deal with emotionally and
mentally picking up the pieces after being personally touched
by an event such as Katrina? How might this process be different
for different people dealing with the same tragedy? How might
this be different for someone in Louisiana than it is for someone
in Idaho? What might be the same? Where do you begin to deal with
such an overwhelming experience? How could you help younger
siblings, or other children in your life, cope in the face of
such a tragedy?
What tragedies (large
scale and small scale) have people dealt with in your area? On
a personal level, how have these events affected people in your
community as those in the Gulf Coast have been personally affected
by Katrina? In what ways might those who are not directly touched
by such events be indirectly affected? (In what ways are people
all over the nation affected by Katrina?)
Please email me with
any ideas or suggestions.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum